A Second Chance for Rehoboth Retiree Thanks to an Advanced Cardiac Care System Available at Beebe
Annette Davis knew something was wrong with her husband Laurence Davis, 62, when they went to the Emergency Department at Beebe Healthcare in January 2014. He could not urinate and was in a great deal of pain. His heart was failing and he was admitted to ICU.
“We never knew there was anything wrong with his heart,” Mrs. Davis recalls. Mr. Davis was taken to Beebe’s Cardiac Cath Lab so that interventional cardiologist Mouhanad Freih, MD, could get a good look at the arteries in his heart. There were serious blockages in those arteries. His blood pressure was low, his lungs were filled with fluid, and he was unstable. Dr. Freih, who is the Chief of Cardiology, diagnosed him with “myocardial infarction complicated by cardiogenic shock and heart failure.”
In other words, Mr. Davis was dying. His heart had stopped once. He needed heart surgery so that oxygen could get to his failing and weakened heart. Dr. Freih decided that the only thing that would stabilize Mr. Davis enough to allow him to have lifesaving surgery was to put him on Cardiohelp, a portable heart-lung machine that would take over for his heart and pump the necessary oxygen-rich blood through his body.
Beebe is the first hospital in Delaware to use this advanced technology.
Dr. Freih, who is trained and credentialed in this technology, contacted the Beebe Cardiac Surgery Team, and together they inserted Cardiohelp. Mr. Davis was then immediately taken to the operating room for open-heart surgery.
“Dr. Kuretu, the heart surgeon, came and talked to us,” Annette recalls. “He said it was grim and didn’t know if Laurence would survive the surgery, but that surgery was his only chance. Otherwise he would die.”
The Cardiac Surgery Team, including cardiothoracic surgeon M. L. Ray Kuretu, MD, who brought Cardiohelp to Beebe and established its use, operated on Mr. Davis. A specialized medical transport team trained to care for patients on this kind of heart-lung support arrived from Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia to take him to the hospital’s Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) unit. There, a highly trained team works 24 hours a day treating these critically ill patients.
“Beebe saved my husband’s life,” Mrs. Davis recalls. “And the quality of care he received at Jefferson was wonderful. There was a team of doctors and others watching over him every minute.”
Mr. Davis was kept on Cardiohelp for several weeks, Mrs. Davis says. “His heart needed time to rest and recover.”
In April 2014, the Davis family returned to Beebe to thank the staff for saving his life. But by summer, they learned that he had stage IV bladder cancer, and that there was little hope for survival. He died in the fall.
“His heart had become so strong that he could have lived for another 15 years,” his adult daughter Alicia Constant says. “If only he had not had the cancer.”
Both Alicia and Mrs. Davis believe that those extra months of Mr. Davis’ life made an important difference in his life and in the lives of so many people. Alicia says that Mr. Davis connected with his estranged son Eric and three grandchildren. Mr. Davis had only met the eldest grandchild as an infant almost 13 years previously. He and Eric had a falling out years before and were finally able to make peace.
“We got to be all together once again,” Alicia says. Mrs. Davis believes that though he died from cancer, his struggle and recovery from his heart disease increased the knowledge of those who treat heart attack patients.
“He was on that machine longer than anyone has been,” she says. “I understand that by treating my husband, those at Jefferson were able to improve and advance care for others in the future.”
Dr. Freih, the Beebe interventional cardiologist who treated Mr. Davis, says this technology is helping Beebe save lives. For him, there is nothing more satisfying than when he realizes he has helped a critically ill patient receive a second chance.
WHAT IS CARDIOHELP?
Cardiohelp is a small, portable heart-lung support system that provides extracorporeal life support (ECLS). It is used on patients whose heart or lungs are failing despite other treatment methods. It is used as a bridge treatment that allows the opportunity to stabilize a patient long enough to either recover on his or her own, receive more advanced technologies like an artificial heart, or receive a heart transplant.
The ECLS system can be inserted anywhere in the hospital, and can even be transported with the patient via an ambulance or helicopter.
It can only be used by specially trained and certified medical personnel.
Beebe has been using Cardiohelp to provide care to critically ill patients since obtaining the technology in 2013. Cardiohelp offers life-saving support to critically ill patients throughout the hospital, including in the Operating Room, Cardiac Cath Lab, ICU, and Emergency Department. Once patients are stabilized, Beebe transfers them to outside facilities, such as Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, that have medical teams highly trained and experienced in treating patients under the support of ECLS and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) systems.